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2020 News

COVID Cases Continue to Soar as Health Officials Await Holiday Fallout

November 30, 2020

Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

COVID-19 infections surged to record levels once again last week in Bucks County, averaging 345 new cases per day, state health officials reported.

Deaths and hospitalizations, while far from the peaks of last spring, rose higher than they have in several months.

The Bucks County Health Department reported 23 COVID deaths among county residents from Nov. 22 – 28, six of them living in long-term care facilities. It was the most coronavirus fatalities reported in one week since the end of May. COVID-19 Update

The decedents included 14 women and nine men, ranging in age from 42 to 95. Six were in their 90s, five in their 80s, three in their 70s, six in their 60s, two in their 50s, and one in her 40s.

As of Saturday, 69 county residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, the most since July 7. Four of those patients were on ventilators.

Bucks County had a 12.1 percent test positivity rate for the seven-day period ending Nov. 26, slightly higher than the statewide rate of 11.7 percent.

Medical experts predict the numbers will worsen during the coming weeks, driven by infections stemming from interstate travel and indoor gatherings during the Thanksgiving holidays. An estimated 6.8 million Americans passed through the nation’s airports in the days preceding Thanksgiving, and another 48 million were expected to travel by vehicle, AAA estimated.

“We are hoping that many people used their common sense over the holiday weekend to stay home and reduce any gatherings,” said county Health Department Director Dr. David Damsker. “Keep in mind that given the high case numbers, anybody you know can be potentially infected. If you have symptoms, don’t go to work or school or visit family – get tested.  That’s also going to help a lot at this point.”

Gov. Wolf last week continued to advise against holiday travel and gatherings. He issued new guidelines urging businesses to require employees to work remotely when possible.

The Bucks County Commissioners on Monday announced that most non-judicial county offices will be open to the public on an appointment-only basis through Jan. 4, 2021. County employees able to perform their jobs from home were asked to do so.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned Sunday that the U.S. could face “a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in” during the first weeks of December.

Fauci said that while limited COVID-19 vaccinations could begin in the U.S. before the end of the year, increased restrictions may be needed to limit what he called “really a precarious situation” heading into the Christmas season. He stopped short, however, of recommending a total lockdown.

Bucks County’s 2,417 new cases last week were part of a statewide total of nearly 49,000 new infections. On Wednesday, both the county and state set one-day records for new cases reported – 584 from Bucks, 9,279 statewide.

Across Pennsylvania, COVID-19 hospitalizations are at the highest level of the pandemic, with more than 4,400 residents being treated. Two months ago, fewer than 500 patients were hospitalized for COVID.

In Bucks County, 35 percent of all adult medical-surgical hospital beds remain available, along with 30 percent of all adult ICU beds, the state health department reported.

The county last week shifted to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s case reporting system, reducing some of its overall contact tracing and focusing attention primarily on high-priority cases such as elderly and school-age patients. The changes were attributed to the overwhelming volume of cases.

Bucks County Health Department investigations last week identified 46 new infections among residents and staff at long-term care centers.

At least 112 Bucks County school students tested positive for COVID last week, 89 of whom were enrolled in virtual or hybrid instruction. Six school staff members also tested positive.

Statistics, charts and other coronavirus-related information can be found on the county’s data portal: https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com.